Each year tens of thousands of Humpback Whales migrate North from the chilly waters of Antartica to their calving and breeding grounds in the warm tropical waters off the coast of QLD. This annual migration, which takes the Humpback Whales past Queensland’s beautiful Gold Coast affords the eager tourist the opportunity to see one of nature’s most majestic creatures all within a short journey of their 5 star hotel rooms.
Humpback Whales start passing by QLD’s Gold Coast in late May which is roughly the time tour operators begin offering 3-4 hour trips to watch them at play. So it was that I took my first trip of the 2017 season on Saturday 27th March with experienced operators Whales in Paradise. I do virtually all my trips with them as they have a slightly smaller boat that allows you to get a bit closer to the action, not to mention an excellent, well informed crew. You board the boat just off the Cavill Avenue main drag in Surfers and after a short but informative ride through the Gold Coast canals are out in the Pacific ocean looking for whales.
My first trip each year always comes with a little anxiety. The whales are more thinly spread and there’s always the off chance you might not see one early in the season. This countered somewhat by Whales In Paradise offering another trip free of charge if your unfortunate to not encounter whales. After a short period of time with passengers and crews keen scouring the surrounding waters with multiple sets of eyes, it was crew member Toby who spotted and pointed out the first whales of the season.
It turned out to be not one but 3 whales, 2 adults and a young calf. It was a beautiful day on the water with light winds and little ocean swell and we spend the next hour and a half accompanying the 3 whales on their migration North, admiring their size, beauty and majesty.
This is my third season going out trying to capture the beauty of these creatures through my camera and I can say without hesitation it’s one of the toughest forms of photography to learn. Lighting conditions vary from moment to moment, your not sure on how far away from you your subject matter will be and to top it all off your on a constantly shifting platform.
I managed to get some nice tail shots as the whales would arch their backs and go for a deep dive and also some nice close ups.When it finally came time to head back to Surfers Paradise I was amazed to realize I had racked up over 1,200 photos taken (I was shooting high speed burst mode with a Nikon D5) leaving me a chunk of reviewing to do when I finally got home.
This year experts have predicted over 27,000 whales will make the migration North and pass by the Gold Coast up from 20,000 only 3 years ago. There has never been a better time to take the opportunity to go out and see these wondrous animals.
Stay tuned for further blog posts where I will start to cover some of the techniques involved in getting great photos of them.